Cape Town's shutdown for JZ

Andrew Donaldson says the security services will be manhandling unbathed residents across the CBD this week


SPARE a thought for those security personnel deployed in and around Parliament to protect President Jacob Zuma from a grateful public when he stumbles through his state of the nation address on Thursday evening.

It’s a thankless line of work at the best of times, bothering ordinary folk as they go about their everyday business. But this week could be extra tough for the public order people as they beef up security.

There are, it seems, going to be “body searches” in the city centre. This is not going to be pleasant. 

Readers will no doubt be aware that, in response to the City of Cape Town’s poor management of its water resources, local talk radio stations have been running Stasi-like campaigns in which we’ve been urged to spy on neighbours and report them to the authorities when they spend too long in the bath. 

Such is the fear and hysteria that many of us haven’t washed for weeks and may be too ripe for rigorous frisking.

It’s been further reported that the streets around the parliamentary precinct will be closed for not just one day, but two. This has prompted concerns among the Mahogany Ridge regulars that Zuma’s speech would be especially long and tedious this year.

But no, according to The Times, the shutdown will take place two days ahead of Sona 2017. The traffic situation therefore promises to be a whole heap of fun, and does not bode well for Save South Africa’s Peoples’ Assembly rally at St George’s Cathedral on Wednesday morning.

It’s going to take some doing to attend the rally, what with gridlock, sniffer dogs, body searches and check-points. A bit like a Syrian trying to get into the US these days, I suppose.

But this is not to suggest that the rally will be poorly attended. Far from it. 

It’s rumoured that as many as 6 000 police — a figure that Secretary to Parliament Gengezi Mgidlana would neither confirm nor deny — will be deployed in the city at this time. There is absolutely no reason why many of them won’t be whiling away the time at St George’s, perhaps learning why the President is such a bad egg.

The Cape Town Press Club got an earful of it on Thursday, when Save South Africa convenor Sipho Pityana delivered what could be considered a curtain-raiser to Wednesday’s proceedings — and perhaps Thursday’s.

It was a depressing business. After observing a moment’s silence for the deaths of the 94 mentally ill patients transferred from Life Esidemeni care homes to dodgy, unlicensed NGOs, Pityana then outlined what to expect from Zuma.

The President, he said, will not be short of words. And neither was Pityana. 

Zuma will have plenty to say — but nothing much of substance.

“He will gloss over the mistakes he has made. He will ignore the rampant corruption and abuse that causes the current crises we face‚ and he will roll out another set of promises‚ replete with unintelligible numbers.

“Given the circumstance‚ we can expect it to be the most underwhelming Sona in democratic South African history. After all‚ it will be delivered by the worst head of the post-apartheid state and the worst President the African National Congress has ever had.”

It will be a speech from a man with no respect for the Constitution, a president who disregards the courts, Parliament and the Chapter Nine institutions, Pityana said.

“It will be delivered by a head of state who is the commander in chief of state corruption and who brazenly and daringly drives the agenda for state capture — a man who has neither honour nor integrity‚ and absolutely no sense of accountability. If it were not so tragic‚ it would be hilarious.”

On and on it went, a shameful catalogue of broken promises and monumental failures: the failure to combat unemployment, the failure to improve education, the failure to alleviate poverty, the failure to grow the economy … and all due to state capture.

None of the above should bother Accused Number One in the slightest. We are a joke, as far as he’s concerned.

As Pityana pointed out in what would appear to be a case of nominative determinism, the English translation of Gedleyihlekisa, Zuma’s traditional or non-colonial second name, is “the one who laughs at you while physically hurting you.”

However, when we stuck “Gedleyihlekisa” into the Ridge’s online Zulu-English translator, it came up with simply “Jacob.” 

Further googling suggested that Zuma’s father made up his son’s name, which means “I cannot keep quiet when someone pretends to love me with a deceitful smile.” 

And neither should the rest of us.

This article first appeared in the Weekend Argus.